The G20’s Vaccine Imperative

 

by  GORDON BROWN

Published: Project Syndicate, 27 October 2021

 

The world’s richest countries are sitting on a vaccine stockpile of unused doses that are surplus to their requirements, whereas only 5% of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated. World leaders gathering in Rome for the G20 this month must address this catastrophic market and moral failure.

Dear Prime Minister Draghi,

We congratulate you on your preparations for the G20 summit on October 30. We wish to bring to your attention the issue of the inequitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution plaguing our planet, and to ask you to consider the G20 meeting as an opportunity to address this inequitable distribution.

Over six billion doses have been administered worldwide, but 70% of these doses were administered by only a few of the world’s 194 countries, and only 2% of people in low-income countries have received a vaccine dose.

Vaccines can play a major role in ending the pandemic, but only if they are available to all, and only if we collaborate with one another as no one is safe until we are all safe.

We believe that vaccine inequality can be ended, and that high-level action by the G20 will help immensely to do that. Now and every month until the end of the year, the richest nations, because of overordering, will be sitting on a vaccine stockpile of unused doses that are surplus to their requirements. Meanwhile, only 5% of Africa is fully vaccinated. Similar problems exist in large parts of Asia and Latin America. In order to reach the 70% vaccination target the world has set – the vaccination levels of high-income countries – five billion more vaccines are needed including 1.6 billion additional vaccines in Africa. Achieving this goal is within the world’s reach, should high-income countries decide to share their surplus doses immediately.

A detailed plan can be agreed by the G20 to redistribute available vaccines and switch delivery contracts to the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) facility, the international bulk-purchasing agency aimed at ensuring equitable access to vaccines globally. We urge you to press this idea on your G20 colleagues when finance and health ministers meet in Rome on October 29 and when leaders meet on October 30.

We believe that the plan we outline below, which builds on the global vaccines summit convened by US President Joe Biden in September, can bring immediate relief to the poorest countries.

First, our evidence shows that four polities – the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada –  will be stocking by the end of this month 240 million unused vaccines. With a concrete plan agreed by the G7 countries and endorsed by the G20, and with the help of the militaries in these countries, these could be airlifted immediately to the countries most in need. Let us stress that these are unused vaccines, after we take account of the deployment of boosters in high-income countries and the vaccination of 12-15-year-olds, and they come on top of the donations that have already been agreed.

Second, another 212 million vaccines can be transferred by the end of November.

Third, a further airlift can be agreed for December of 150 million vaccines, with 280 million more in January and 245 million in February – adding up to a transfer of vaccines and delivery contracts for vaccines totalling 1.1 billion in the next four months.

These doses would help low-income countries in Africa and elsewhere achieve the currently unattainable World Health Organization vaccination targets of 40% by the end of the year or very soon thereafter.

Fourth, the World Bank should make available additional finance immediately to build the capacity needed to administer vaccines quickly and effectively in not only the urban but also the rural areas of low-income countries.

We believe that if all this is agreed, the world can meet what the WHO has said is a spring date in 2022 for 70% of all adults to be vaccinated.

We call your attention to the results if vaccines are not distributed to the countries in need at the rate we have proposed. Without urgent reallocation, 100 million vaccine doses will have passed their use-by date at the end of this year. If we do not act quickly, the figure could exceed 200 million by the end of January 2022.

It would be unethical for all these vaccines to be wasted when globally, there are 10,000 COVID-19 deaths every day, many of which could have been averted.

The information from a UK survey is that for the deployment of less than 100 million vaccines, 120,000 lives have already been saved, illustrating the benefits of a mass vaccination campaign in countries where a fourth wave of COVID-19 is happening and escalating numbers of lives are in danger of being lost.

We are in touch with the African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention to assess their needs and the shortfall in vaccine supply. They say that they are still recovering from a long and hard third wave that claimed the lives of 80,000 people since the start of August. Unfortunately, the rate at which lives are being lost is increasing, not decreasing. With each new wave being worse than the previous wave, many experts fear that things will worsen when the impending fourth wave arrives – unless vaccines are swiftly provided.

Vaccine inequity constitutes a threat to us all. Just as one cannot put out half a fire and be safe from the fire, so are we all not safe until everyone is safe. Without rapidly scaled up vaccination, fast-moving variants will continue to arise in unvaccinated regions which are bound to spread to the fully vaccinated elsewhere and undermine the vaccination progress made to date.

As you know, the probability of death increases with increasing poverty. It is estimated that the failure to deliver vaccines to low-income countries will cost the world $5.3 trillion. Low-income countries will bear the brunt of these costs as they cannot begin to recover from the pandemic without far greater access to vaccines.

As the G20 convenes in Rome, we hope that the assembled leaders will agree that the poorest and the most vulnerable can finally have access to the miracle of life-saving vaccines.

This commentary is signed by:
Philippe Aghion Professor of Economics, Collège de France & LSE
María Elena Agüero Secretary General of Club de Madrid¹
Esko Aho Prime Minister of Finland 1991-1995¹
Rashid Alimov Secretary-General Shanghai Cooperation Organization 2016-2019, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan 1992-1994²
Farida Allaghi former Ambassador of Libya to EU²
Abdulaziz Altwaijri former Director General of ISESCO²
M Hamid Ansari Vice President of India 2007-2017³
Shaukat Aziz Prime Minister of Pakistan 2004-2007²
Jan Peter Balkenende Prime Minister of The Netherlands 2002-2010¹
Ki-moon Ban Secretary General of the United Nations 2007-2016¹
Barbara Barrett USA Secretary of the Air Force 2019-2021³
Kaushik Basu President of the International Economic Association; Chief Economist of the World Bank (2012-2016)
Erik Berklof EBRD Chief Economist (2006-2015); Professor of Economics, LSE
Suman Bery Chief Economist at Royal Dutch Shell (2012-2016); Director-General of the National Council of Applied Economic Research, New Delhi
Ana Birchall deputy Prime Minister of Romania 2018-2019²
Patrick Bolton Professor of Finance and Economics, Imperial College London; Professor, Columbia University
Kjell Magne Bondevik Prime Minister of Norway 1997-2000; 2001-2005¹
Thomas Boni Yayi President of the Republic of Benin 2006-2016; former President of the African Union 2012-2013
Wided Bouchamaoui Nobel Peace Prize 2015²
Dumitri Bragish Prime Minister of Moldova 1999-2001²
Lakhdar Brahimi Algeria Foreign Minister 1991-1993³
Gordon Brown Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 2007-2010
John Bruton Ireland Prime Minister 1994-1997³
Robin Burgess Professor of Economics, LSE
Micheline Calmy-Rey President of Switzerland 2007 and 2011¹
Fernando Henrique Cardoso President of Brazil 1995-2003¹
Wendy Carlin Professor of Economics, University College London
Hikmet Cetin Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey 1991-1994²
Lynda Chalker UK Minister for Overseas Development 1989-1997³
Laura Chinchilla President of Costa Rica 2010-2014¹
Joachim Chissano President of Mozambique 1986-2005¹
Bai Chong-en Dean, Tsinghua School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University
Helen Clark Prime Minister of New Zealand 1999-2008¹³
Joe Clark Canada Prime Minister 1979-1980³
Sean Cleary Chairman, Strategic Concepts (Pty) Ltd; Advisor of Club de Madrid¹
Emil Constantinescu President of Romania 1996-2000²
Diane Coyle Co-Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy, University of Cambridge
Chester Crocker USA Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs³
Marzuki Darusman Indonesia Attorney General 1999-2001³
Kemal Derviş Minister of Economic Affairs of Turkey (2001-2002); Administrator of UNDP (2005-2009); Senior Fellow Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institute
Hailemariam Desalegn Prime Minister of Ethiopia 2012-2018
Mathias Dewatripont Professor of Economics, Université libre de Bruxelles
Beatrice Weder di Mauro President, Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Professor of International Economics, Graduate Institute in Geneva
Philip Dimitrov Prime Minister of Bulgaria 1991-1992¹
Victor J. Dzau President of the National Academy of Medicine
Barry Eichengreen Professor of Economics and Political Science, University of California, Berkeley
Mohamed ElBaradei Egypt Director General International Atomic Energy Agency 1997-2009³
Maria Fernanda Espinosa 73rd President of the UNGA, former Minister on Foreign Affairs of Ecuador²
Amara Essy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cote d’Ivoire 1990-2000³
Gareth Evans Australia Foreign Minister 1988-1996³
Jeremy Farrar Director of the Wellcome Trust
Jan Fisher Prime Minister of the Czech Republic 2009-2010²
Louise Fréchette Canada Deputy Secretary General, United Nations 1998-2006³
Yasuo Fukuda Prime Minister of Japan 2007-2008¹
Chiril Gaburici Prime Minister of Moldova 2015²
Ahmed Galal Finance Minister of Egypt (2013-2014)
Lawrence Gonzi Malta Prime Minister 2004-2013³
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic President of Croatia 2015-2020²
Dalia Grybauskaitė President of Lithuania 2009-2019¹
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim President of Mauritius 2015-2018³
Sergei Guriev Chief Economist of the EBRD (2016-2019); Professor of Economics, Sciences Po
Alfred Gusenbauer Chancellor of Austria 2007-2008¹
Tarja Halonen President of Finland 2000-2012²
Seung-Soo Han Prime Minister of the Rep. of Korea 2008-2009¹
Hilda Heine President of the Marshall Islands 2016-2020¹
Noeleen Heyzer Distinguished Visiting Fellow, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) Advisor of Club de Madrid¹
Bengt Holmstrom Nobel Laureate for Economics (2016); Professor of Economics, MIT
Enrique Iglesias Secretary General of the Ibero-American Cooperation Secretariat 2005-2013; President of the IADB (1998-2005)¹³
Dalia Itzik President of the Knesset 2006-2009, interim President of Israel 2007²
Mladen Ivanic President of Bosnia and Herzegovina 2014-2018²
Harold James Professor of European Studies & Professor of History and International Affairs, Princeton University
T. Anthony Jones Vice-President and Executive Director of GFNA¹
Jerry Jones Executive Vice-President, Ethics and Legal Officer at Live Ramp; Advisor of Club de Madrid¹
Lee Jong-wha Professor of Economics, Korea University; Chief Economist & Head of the Office of Regional Economic Integration at the Asian Development Bank (2007-2013)
Ivo Josipovic President of Croatia 2010-2015¹²
Mats Karlsson Vice President of the World Bank²
Caroline Kende-Robb Former Executive Director, Kofi Annan’s Africa Progress Panel and former Secretary General, CARE International
Kerry Kennedy President Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights²
Horst Köhler President of Germany 2004-2010¹
Jadranka Kosor Prime Minister of Croatia 2009-2011²
Leonid Kuchma President of Ukraine 1994-2005²
John Kufuor President of Ghana 2001-2009
Aleksander Kwaśniewski President of Poland 1995-2005¹
Zlatko Lagumdzija Prime Minister of Bosnia & Herzegovina 2001-2002¹²
Yves Leterme Prime Minister of Belgium 2008, 2009-2011²
Justin Yifu Lin Chief Economist & Senior Vice-President of the World Bank (2008-2012); Dean of Institute of New Structural Economics, Peking University³
Petru Lucinschi President of Moldova 1997-2001²
Igor Luksic Prime Minister of Montenegro 2012-2015²
Ricardo Luna Peru Minister of Foreign Affairs 2016-2018³
Nora Lustig President Emeritus of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association; Professor of Latin American Economics, Tulane University
Graça Machel Former Education Minister for Mozambique
Mauricio Macri President of Argentina 2015-2019¹
John Dramani Mahama President of Ghana 2012-2017
Susana Malcorra Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship for the Republic of Argentina; Advisor of Club de Madrid¹
Moussa Mara Prime Minister of Mali 2014-2015²
Dalia Marin Professor of International Economics, TUM School of Management, Munich
Colin Mayer Professor of Management Studies, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
Don McHenry Ambassador to the UN 1979-1981
Rexhep Meidani President of Albania 1997-2002²
Stjepan Mesic President of Croatia 2000-2010²
Festus Mogae President of Botswana 1998-2008¹³
Amre Moussa Secretary General of the Arab League 2001-2011, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt 1999-2001²
Rovshan Muradov Secretary General Nizami Ganjavi International Center²
Joseph Muscat Prime Minister of Malta 2013-2020²
Mustapha Kamel Nabli Governor of the Central Bank of Tunisia (2011-2012)
Piroska Nagy-Mohacsi Programme Director of the Institute of Global Affairs, LSE; Director of Policy, EBRD (2009-2015)
Peter R. Neumann Professor King’s College London; Advisor of Club de Madrid¹
Bujar Nishani President of Albania 2012-2017²
José Antonio Ocampo Professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University; Advisor of Club de Madrid¹
Ana Palacio Foreign Minister of Spain 2002-2004³
PJ Patterson Prime Minister of Jamaica 1992-2006¹³
Ted Piccone Chief Engagement Officer at World Justice Project & Senior Non-resident Fellow at Brookings Foreign Policy; Advisor of Club de Madrid¹
Thomas R Pickering USA Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs 1997-2000³
Chris Pissarides Nobel Laureate for Economics (2010); Professor of Economics & Political Science, LSE
Rosen Plevneliev President of Bulgaria 2012-2017²
Richard Portes Professor of Economics, London Business School; Founder and Honorary President of the Centre for Economic Policy Research
Jorge Fernando Quiroga President of Bolivia 2001-2002¹
José Manuel Ramos-Horta President of Timor Leste 2007-2012¹
Hélène Rey Professor of Economics, London Business School
George Robertson UK Secretary General of NATO 1999-2004³
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero President of the Government of Spain 2004-2011¹
Dani Rodrik President-Elect of the International Economic Association; Professor of International Political Economy, Harvard University
Petre Roman Prime Minister of Romania 1989-1991²
José Manuel Romero Vice-President, FRIDE¹
Wolfgang Schüssel Chancellor of Austria 2000-2007¹
Ismail Serageldin Co-Chair Nizami Ganjavi International Center, Vice-President of the World Bank 1992-2000²
Rosalia Arteago Serrano President of Ecuador 1997²
Wei Shangjin Professor of Finance and Economic at Columbia Business School
Jenny Shipley Prime Minister of New Zealand 1997-1999¹
Michel Sidibé Former UNAIDs Executive Director 2009-2019
Javier Solana Spain Secretary General Council of the European Union 1999-2009³
Juan Somavia Presidente Foro de Politica Exterior de Chile¹
Michael Spence Nobel Laureate for Economics (2001); William R. Berkley Professor in Economics & Business, NYU
Devi Sridhar Professor of Global Public Health, University of Edinburgh
Joseph Stiglitz Chief Economist of the World Bank (1997-2000); Nobel Laureate for Economics (2001); Professor, Columbia University
Petar Stoyanov President of Bulgaria 1997-2002²
Alexander Stubb Prime Minister of Finland 2014-2015¹
Hanna Suchocka Prime Minister of Poland 1992-1993¹
Boris Tadic President of Serbia 2004-2012²
Jigme Yoser Thinley Lyonchhen Prime Minister of Buthan 2008-2013¹
Eka Tkeshelashvili deputy Prime Minister of Georgia 2010-2012²
Martín Torrijos President of Panama 2004-2009¹
Aminata Touré Prime Minister of Senegal 2013-2014¹
Danilo Türk President of Slovenia 2007-2012¹
Cassam Uteem President of Mauritius 1992-2002¹³
Juan Gabriel Valdés Chile, Foreign Minister 1999³
Vaira Vike-Freiberga Co-Chair Nizami Ganjavi International Center, President of Latvia 1999-2007²
Ernst-Ludwig von Thadden President, Mannheim University (2012-2019); Professor, Economics Department
Filip Vujanovic President of Montenegro 2003-2018²
Leonard Wantchekon Founder & President of the African School of Economics; Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University
Kevin Watkins Former Chief Executive of Save the Children
Yu Yongding President of the China Society of World Economy (2004-2006); Director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics, China Academy of Social Sciences
Muhammad Yunus Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2006²
Kateryna Yushchenko First Lady of Ukraine 2005-2010²
Viktor Yushchenko President of Ukraine 2005-2010²
Valdis Zatlers President of Latvia 2007-2011²

¹ Club de Madrid
² NGIC
³ Global Leadership Foundation